Violist Ann Marie Hudson Brink still remembers the difficulty of trying to talk her parents into letting her come to Interlochen Arts Academy. Brink’s father was a salesman; her mother was a dental hygienist. At the time that Interlochen came to Brink’s attention, her father was unemployed.
“We had a few good laughs about it: ’Yeah, yeah, like you’re going to go to boarding school,’” said Brink.
But for Brink, Interlochen was no laughing matter. “I knew Interlochen had a summer program,” she said, “So I thought, ‘At least I can go for the summer.’” After a partial scholarship, a paid position as a member of the Pensacola Symphony and a loan from her older sister, Brink was able to fund a summer of studying viola at Interlochen Arts Camp. Immediately, she realized that she needed to stay.
“I had found my people,” she said. “I met friends who were just as enthusiastic about playing in an orchestra as I was. For me, it was paradise.”
Unbeknownst to her parents, Brink then applied to Interlochen Arts Academy, filling out all the paperwork on her own. But to be eligible for financial aid, she needed her parents’ tax returns. “I remember calling my parents from a phone booth in the middle of the woods and saying, ‘Let’s just try to make this a go,’” she said. “I did not want to give them the option of telling me no.” Interlochen’s office of financial aid came through, and Brink was able to attend Interlochen Arts Academy for her sophomore, junior and senior years of high school.
“Interlochen was the genesis of my career as an artist,” she said. “It was where I laid the foundation for my career today. All I had to do was stay focused, and my dreams started coming true.” Today, Brink is the associate principal violist of the Dallas Symphony and a professor at Southern Methodist University. She’s also helping dreams come true for other young artists.
Brink’s husband, Greg, comes from a tradition of philanthropy, which he has shared with his wife. “When we got married and joined our finances, he said, ‘This is what I do, this is what percentage I give to charity every year.’” Her husband asked what institutions she would like to support; Interlochen was an immediate choice.
“For me to be able to go to Interlochen meant someone had to contribute,” said Brink. “Being a donor is the best way to honor [the people who contributed to my scholarship] and to continue that tradition. It meant so much to me to be able to go, and I know what it’s like to have that ‘question mark’ and wonder if you can study music because it’s such a tremendous financial investment.”
Brink’s support provides a scholarship for a young viola student each summer. “I love getting letters and photos from a viola student at the end of each summer,” she said. “I don’t have children of my own, so I feel that this is my legacy.”
Brink hopes others will choose to support Interlochen as well. “Obviously, one person can’t do it themselves,” she said. “There’s more than one kid who needs money to get to Interlochen. I think it’s important that collectively we invest in a future generation of artists.”
“The artistic community that we will have 10, 15, 20 or 30 years from now is going to be the community we invest in today,” she added. “They need guidance, they need teachers, they need financial support. They’re not going to be able to do it on their own.”